Why investigate the history of school in Sweden?
To be able to comprehend why the school system is what it is today we need to know it’s history. Then we can discover what shaped Sweden in the last century and when it became so restrictive that it could no longer accommodate those who questioned it or didn’t fit in. When did the state become totalitarian enough to start removing children from families who dared not to comply?
Medieval times and before the 1800s
The first organised learning institutions were the monasteries where the teaching was done in latin. There were “cathedral schools” from the 11th century in Skåne (Then Danish-owned). The schools in Sweden were known to have started in the 12th/13th century and were run by the church. These schools were not mandatory. Later, they would become the foundation for the “allmänna läroverket” (the common learning institution). There was a “teaching duty” in the church school law from 1686.
(People’s School Statute 1842)
The school system went through some changes and in 1842 it was decided that it needed a legal foundation. The Swedish “folkskola” (people’s school) was introduced to the common people by implementing the folk school statute. It was a law where each congregation had to set up a school within the next 5 years. The priests of the congregation decided what the curriculum should be, and it was paid for by raising money locally through a mixture of school fees, local taxes and donations from churchgoers.
Contrary to what many seem to believe and what has been falsely reported by Expressen, the Folkeskola statute did not make it illegal not to attend school. Instead, the school act merely confirmed previous regulations stating that a basic education was compulsory, while schooling was not. The school act admittedly noted that all children should enroll in school, but specifically exempted children educated at home, and middle- and upper-middle-class children attending grammar schools (läroverk). In the former respect, the school act noted that home instruction would remain important in some areas. The school act also stated that children unable to attend school due to long, or seasonally impassable, routes to school were allowed to attend school only once or twice a week once they acquired the ability to read.
Here is the text of the relevant law. Put simply, children could be taught at home. The school district could check and test if the children were getting a reasonable education when compared to the schools. If they were not, then they could allow the parents reasonable time to upgrade their teaching then force the children to attend a school if they did not. If the family did not comply, they could then take (kidnap) the children.
Social Engineering By Mr & Mrs Myrdal
The most significant influence that shaped Sweden to what it is today in the mid 1900s is Alva and Gunnar Myrdal that were the pioneers for the social engineering in Sweden. They meant that the society should be as centralised as possible and that all the important decisions should be done by bureaucrats.
Both were highly educated social democrats that wanted to solve the low birth rates and social problems. The Swedish welfare state was founded more or less on their ideas. They advocated for the “freedom of women” by expanding the state to take care of the children in kindergardens and pay out benefits in their book from 1934 “Kris i befolkningsfrågan” (A crisis in the population).
Alva became a mother at 25 and had suicidal thoughts. She wanted to work instead of being a mother, so she worked to change the system. She did so by her writing and by starting the first modern training for pre-school teachers.
Alva Myrdal was on the school commission of 1946, which set about designing a standardized and centrally planned education which was identical for all children. Promoting the idea of democracy was a key aim of the commission.
Alva and Gunnar Myrdal saw the society as one organism that could be shaped rather than individuals. This thought is deep within what is taught in Swedish schools and how people (in general) see society. The couple became famous abroad as well for their books and prestigious roles within the UN.
According to her son, Alva Myrdal was a terrible mother. She spent all of her time palming her kids off on to relatives and nannys. In their son’s book, he described her as “cold” and him as “tyrannical”.
The Most Significant Change Was In 1962
In 1962, based on the findings of the school commission, a law was introduced by the education minister Ragnar Edenman (Social Democrats). The “folkskola” was substituted for the “Grundskola”. This meant that there was now a centrally planned curriculum that would be the same for all children. This curriculum would take 9 years in school. This has recently been expanded to 10 years. Without localised variations in school education it would make easier to demonstrate where home educated children were receiving a different education to those in school.
Olof Palme and the fight to erase social differences
Olof Palme took over in 1967 and became later a well known prime minister of Sweden for many years until his death. It was high up on the agenda to erase social differences. That could most efficiently be done by schooling the children in the same way and therefore little room was given to accomodate needs of children that fell outside of the norm. Olof Palmes goal was to implement the swedish model, which was a class-free society in a communist/socialist manner where the social differences should be erased. Even if Palme made clear he didnt like communism he actual worked to implement communism/socialism.
Changes in the school in 2011
In 2011 the school system was toughened up. The education minister Jan Björklund (Liberal party), with a history within the Swedish military, had the desire to implement the discipline from his field within the school system. He thought that the answer to make the students perform better was in more control and a “masters desk style” teaching method. There was still the option to choose learning styles like montessori and waldorf but they had to conform within the tight rules of the curriculum.
Homeschooling was so restricted that it became impossible for those that wanted to homeschool. There were only short term exceptions for very sick students, children that worked as actors and newly arrived foreign children that were finishing the school year online in their home country before entering the Swedish school system.
What was the possibilities for children and families that werent fitting in the school system?
Homeschooling was unheard of as long I can remember from my upbringing. I heard about it first when I was 24 years old, travelling in Central Asia, and ended up at having dinner with an American homeschooling family living near the Aral Sea. I was stunned by their polite and knowledgeable teenagers engaging in deep conversations. I had never heard about it before as homeschooling in Sweden was considered something for the very sick or ultra-ortodox-religious.
Later, becoming interested when we had our own family, I got to hear about the Swedish “home-schooling refugees” moving to Åland (Finland) and other countries weighing the wellbeing of their children higher than their own comfort.
Who finances the schools?
In Sweden all schools are paid by the state through taxes. Since 2009 it is called “skolpeng” – ear marked school money – which is assigned to each student and that the school gets – also private schools. Nobody should “have to pay” for school in Sweden so therefore there are only a hand full of international schools for foreign diplomats that exists that charge fees, and there are a couple of exceptions like private schools for the elites. The sum for 2019 per student and month is around 6-7000 sek. (ca 600-700 EUR)
What about school curriculums?
There is only one curriculum – the state curriculum – which is founded on the school law. This curriculum has to be followed by everyone in Sweden, also those that are granted home-schooling temporarily because of illnesses.
Though the curriculum looks like it is inclusive to everyone it does not allow for differences as it is “the same for everyone”. If your child is talented and ahead, they will most likely have to read the same books and wait for the others. If the child is having different interests or is coming from a family that is not fitting in within the narrow “one way to be and one opinion to have-mentality” in Sweden the likely outcome is bullying and social ostrazication.
Children that are different, too intelligent, and simply do not want to go to school having other ideas of how to invest their precious time are those that suffer. Here is a link to the curriculum in English.
The right to education and the removal of children from parents that don’t obey
In Sweden, the government answers questioning of the school system with that “it is the childs right to get an education” and the dilemma with a child being ahead is referred to that the school (any of them) and the curriculum will meet the childs needs.
In reality it is not the case as we already asked and visited 20+ schools that showed that they arent able to do that because of the way the schools are organised, and thousands if not more families would confirm it also. School does not equal education. Rather, the school does in many cases not provide a useful education and preparation for life.
Quoting the education minister “Anna Ekström”:
“One of the reasons why we have compulsory schooling is that we allow the children’s right to education before the parents’ right to decide on their children.” (meaning if the parents don’t send the children to school the children should be removed from the parents)
Without giving an opportunity for those that don’t fit in the mold to prosper as it should be the same for everyone. With the huge amount of children failing and being psychologically destroyed in a system that only caters for those that conform.
The “right to education” is an Orwellian way of twisting language where the actual meaning of the word “right” is “force”. How could it be a right for the child if the child does not want it? Else, the parents do not decide over their children but together with them. What we can see here is that the ownership of the children is assigned by the state to the state.
The persecution of those that question the school system
Those that still oppose should either conform anyway and do what everyone else does. If you still agree and you even leave the country to get educational freedom for your children the threat is still there. Because of the common abscence of questioning it, and the medias persecution of those that do – even likening them to child abusers. There is always a danger for those that leave for this reason to return – and even more so if you have told the world about it.
For some examples you can see the Youtube-videos of the biggest news programme saying that I (yes, me personally) am running an anti-school movement and am encouraging people to commit crimes. We have added English subtitles and speech bubbles.